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Friday, August 27, 2010

Discourse 302 New INEC, Old Habits: The Poor Prospect of 2011 Elections

Discourse 302
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

New INEC, Old Habits: The Poor Prospect of 2011 Elections

The Events

“We have never witnessed anything like this before”, said the village head of Kurfai in Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State last Saturday, 22 August 2010, when the senatorial by-election was taking place. Explaining the disappointment of his fellow villagers to an INEC official sent to monitor the election in the area, the leader continued: “During previous elections officials used to come here with voting materials and all we had to contend with was the behaviour of youth who may occasionally clash but in the end it would be settled and election would take place. This time, as you can see, nothing has arrived.” And though the election did not take place in the unit as the INEC monitor witnessed, later at the collation centre two young men arrived, a youth corper and an official of the local government, claiming that they were just returning from the same Kurfai where they suffered so much in their effort to conduct the election. When pressed by the INEC monitor, they changed the claim saying that they went to an entirely different place, Kufai, the home of the local government chairman.
At Nabordo, a supervisor entered the room of his friend who was hired at N100,000.00 to intercept a ballot box from the village of Jimeri in Zaranda ward where the ruling party got only three votes. The young man and his team of hunters successfully intercepted the ballot box, tore all the ballot papers, returned them into the box and brought the ballot box to Nabordo where they hanged it on a tree at the town centre. When his friend saw the crisp N1000 notes in his room, the young man quickly gave an alibi: “Muhammad, what can you people give us? Life is so difficult. Look at my leaking room…”
Fifty kilometers away, a retired Colonel could not vote because the register of his unit was taken to another unit; so also a former secretary to the government whose voters register at Fadaman Mada was mischievously transferred to a place at behind the Emir’s Palace in a completely different ward at the centre of the city. When he arrived at the place after four hours of search, he found the voting taking place in the house of an elderly man, with PDP youths surrounding the voting desk such that people are intimidated either to avoid voting entirely or vote for the ruling party. Hardly was there any voter because it was impossible to know where the station is in the first place. The same thing happened to a senatorial candidate of another party.
At Magama Gumau, a stronghold of one of the candidates, thugs came with knives and machetes, dispersed the voters and snatched the ballot boxes and other materials. The same thing happened in many polling stations throughout the senatorial district.
The whole election was marred by the same old habits of snatching ballot boxes, thuggery, diversion of registers and voting cards, shortage of ballot papers, failure of election officials to turn up, use of colossal amounts to bribe officials and sponsor mayhem, etc. In the end, in Toro Local Government Area, for example, none of the opposition parties signed the return sheet of the local government area; in addition, out of the return sheets of the eleven wards, only three were duly signed and stamped by their INEC returning officers. In his speech, the PDP returning officer of the local government attested that it was the best election he has ever witnessed in his life!
At the end of the election, PDP had 273,764 votes while the ANPP and CPC, the two closest to it, had 57,661 and 56,294 respectively. And the world was told there was free and fair election. The commissioner of police, Danlami Yar’adua and the state governor, Isa Yuguda, both went on the air thanking the good people of Bauchi State for the conduct of a peaceful election.
I have received many discouraging text messages on the election day. I sampled the opinion of many people, including a posting I made on my facebook page two days ago about the prospects of a free and fair election in 2011 going by what happened in the recent by-election in Bauchi and Gombe States. The response was 100% depressing: since then, I am yet to meet anyone who believes in the possibility of a free and fair election in 2011.
Another common thing among the respondents is that people keep counting on Jega to deliver. A text message from a very influential person read thus: “It is just a pity. You need to hear stories coming out… I pity Jega. His reputation is on the line.” The fear is not unfounded. But in reality, Jega and his team have little to do, little to offer, though he may have a lot at stake as the respondent said.

The Masquerade

All that Jonathan did was to change some national officials of INEC and some resident electoral commissioners whose term has expired. Of course he brought in some very credible people, among the best crop that our nation can boast of. But the story ends there. Every other person in INEC is retained. That means other than the few changes at the top that we mentioned, our 2011 election in which we are investing so much hope will be manned by the same officials who rigged the universally discredited 2007 elections, even by the account of the ruling party. These people have not listened to the preaching of Jega. They do not know that there is any new INEC, yet. That is why the INEC staff in Bauchi behaved “business as usual” during last week’s by-election. One of them called one of the candidates and said, “Yallabai, PDP ta bamu abun shan ruwa, yana da kyau kaima ka kawo naka. Mu ma’aikatan kamar sittin ne (Sir, PDP has brought something for us, it’ll be good if you bring yours too. We are about 60 staff here).” I have followed this story and I am ready to give the GSM number, day and time for confirmation if necessary. The candidate refused to offer anything knowing that he cannot beat the PDP government in a race of money.
To make matters worse, the youth corpers who INEC intends to use to man the elections are as vulnerable and corrupt as other Nigerians, from what happened last week in Bauchi and Gombe. First, it is not their environment, so the chaps could easily be intimidated. That is what happened at Magama Gumau after the election materials were snatched by thugs. The INEC head in the local government refused to send them back after sanity was restored claiming that they are afraid. (This is the same INEC official that intimidated the INEC monitor that traveled to Kurfai when she insisted on visiting the village on learning that election is not holding there. Midway, he stopped and said there are thugs in the village, that they better return. The woman refused to be intimidated. Bravo!) On my facebook, the State Chairman of the Muslim Students’ Society told us how he prevailed on a youth corper who finally agreed and left the N15,000.00 bribe with the PDP polling agent there.
Even speaking in terms of number, it is difficult to see how corp members will be sufficient to man our national elections. In the end the by-election in Bauchi was mainly manned by government officials alone or in conjuction with the corpers. The government claimed that the officials were assisting the corpers! How do we expect the situation to change in the next five months?
Jega can also do nothing on election day on the behaviour of state governors. These people have recruited an army of thugs, at least the people of Bauchi and Gomber can testify to this. Not surprising anyway, these thugs are protected by the Police. The leader of these thugs, a personal assistant to a governor, is often seen escorted by two pick-up loads of security personnel. A day before the by-elections, recruited youths were gathered at former Reinsurance House, behind Zaranda Hotel in Bauchi (see picture inset) to collect the advanced payments for the mayhem they would wreck at polling units the following day. To be fair to Jega, these matters are outside his jurisdiction. What will he do to the police commissioner or to the thugs or the party that hires them? Jonathan is the right person to call to order the law enforcement agents and the governors, majority of whom are PDP. He can easily inquire which governors are keeping thugs and he will be told within a minute by the Inspector General of Police. Let him summon them and direct them to disband them. Simple. A word to the IGP is enough. Why is the President not doing so? I do not see fairness when a commissioner of police in an election suppresses other parties from hiring thugs but give full protection to the thugs of the ruling party.
There is also the use of colossal amounts of money to buy the police, security personnel, election officials, agents and voters on the election day, an offence under the Electoral Act. A banker friend of mine told me that he knew about the Saturday election only when he inquired about the reason behind the huge withdrawals of money from the accounts of various local governments in the Bauchi branch of his bank on Friday. What can Jega do if governments themselves are not ready to abide by the law and we have 36 of such lawless governments in this country? The N1000 notes are now widely circulating in Bauchi. In Gombe, an architect who went to monitor the election from Abuja told me that over N100 million was spent in each local government on this expenditure. Where is the Electoral Law? Is it the responsibility of Jega or that of our law enforcement agents to prevent these violations?
I think it is for these facts that the respondent said he pities Jega because in the end Jega, as the head of INEC, will be compelled by the doctrine of vicarious liability to shoulder the responsibility for the inequity of his subordinates and by extension the irresponsibility of government personnel. He will thus be compelled, as was with his predecessor, Professor Iwu, to defend the elections as free and fair, unless he resigns a day after the election and declares it otherwise. Nigerians who witness the atrocities committed at the elections would challenge Jega’s judgement and Jega would naturally defend himself and his organization until he resorts to the common logic of referring the opposition to the courts or to calling them bad losers or frustrated individuals. Nigerians would flush Jega down the drain into the soak-away in which Iwu now resides. There, his credibility would become history. Perhaps, realizing the weakness of his position, Jega has been urging Nigerians to protect their votes on election day as the most effective measure against rigging.

Three Suggestions

Honestly, this is my assessment of the prospects of free and fair elections in 2011. The prospects are very poor, unless three things happen. One, as I said in The Task of Jonathan, the President must listen and act appropriately in hounding his party, governors, security personnel and corrupt INEC officials. Two, Jega must see that election materials are duly procured and distributed to states and down to polling units appropriately. He must read the riot act to INEC personnel. Three, in answer to the call by Jega for people to protect their votes, voters must be allowed to carry things like machetes and knives for self-defense and as a deterrence against thugs and irresponsible officials. The last may sound crazy. But think about it: How do you protect yourself against the mayhem of thugs hired by irresponsible governors? Anyone who thinks votes can be protected against thugs with bare hands is indeed the crazy one.
Finally, I will reemphasize that unless the three are done, Nigerians and the world at large should stop dreaming of conducting an election that will be acclaimed as free and fair. And I will advise Jega to start weighing his options. The electoral body may today dismiss my warnings as the ranting of an irritating cynic. In five months, however, I will stand vindicated if nothing is done. The conduct of INEC in Bauchi and Gombe last week did not leave any room for optimism.

25 August 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Discourse 301 New Inec and the Little Signal from Bauchi

Discourse 301
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

New INEC and the Little Signal from Bauchi

Space scientists who discover planets and extraterrestrial bodies capable of destroying the earth do not wait until they see them very close on their large telescopes before they take them seriously. By the time they see the giant bodies close to the earth it will be too late for the life planet. Rather, they look for signals out there, even if it is a little sound, small motion or a tiny speck of light, indicating something which they will subject to a detailed examination. That is their job. If they do not see anything that catch their attention, we are safe. If they do, they would know no sleep until they handle it. Professor Jega and his new INEC must take the same approach towards future elections.
However, Jega, unlike NASA, does not have radars and telescopes to capture such signals that would determine the success and failure of his task. He only has ears and eyes, laws, INEC staff, security and law enforcement agents – the last two being only a probability but most likely part of his problem. We Nigerians should be his radars and our eyes should be his telescopes. We are everywhere, equally worried, ready and vigilant. We must be ready to report to INEC headquarters any signal that our radars are able to pick up in the dusty political space that would endanger future elections. The old guards are still there, we must not forget. They are ready to win the game by using partial referees and foul play. Now that we have an INEC leadership with many credible members on its team, our vigilance would be the most invaluable assistance we can render to ensure their success.
This piece is an alert on one of such signals that my radar was able to pick up in our political space here in Bauchi. Some things are happening that are making me uncomfortable. The Bauchi by-elections will be the guinea pigs for Jega and his team. I will narrate the story as it is, allowing the reader to make up his mind on the issue.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Around 8.00pm (!) INEC Bauchi office invited all political parties to come and receive invitation letter to a meeting on Monday 2 August 2010 and a notification letter that will enable them receive nomination forms for their candidates the same Monday. The Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was among those who collected the two letters that night. Everyone left for the weekend waiting for Monday, 2 July 2010.

Sunday, 1 July 2010

Alas. Nomination forms were distributed on Sunday without any notice. Specifically, the nomination forms of CPC for senatorial by-election was collected by one Musa Garba Dass from the local INEC legal officer without showing any INEC notification letter for the collection of the forms as stipulated by INEC a day before.
The news that INEC has issued nomination forms to Musa Garba Dass in recognition of Barau’s faction of CPC quickly spread in Bauchi. The State CPC executives that were in far away Daura paying a courtesy call on Buhari who lost his sister two days earlier also heard the news. They smelt a rat. One of their sympathizers who happened to know some federal INEC commissioners contacted one of them and complained. The commissioner linked him up with the Federal Commissioner supervising Bauchi, Col Hamanga (Rtd) and the Bauchi REC was promptly contacted. He said he gave the directive for issuance of the forms over the weekend. Hamanga got back to the sympathizer and promised that things will be sorted out.

Monday, 2 July 2010

The new Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Bauchi, Mr. Ilya Yakubu, paid a courtesy call on His Excellency, Governor Isa Yuguda on Monday 2 July 2010 at the chamber below the Governor’s office. He reported to the Monday meeting with political parties an hour late.
Representatives of political parties convened at INEC office in Bauchi. The Chairman of CPC presented his invitation letter and demanded for the nomination form of his party.
It was also announced at the meeting that CPC would not be allowed to participate in the Gamawa House of Assmbly by-election because it was not registered when the by-election was cancelled last year and this one is just a continuation of the former.
When CPC chairman protested, the REC said he could go to court and seek an interpretation! However, it is allowed to participate in the Bauchi South Senatorial by-election that is coming up on the 20 August 2010, in less than three weeks from the time.
He was told that it was issued to one Musa Garba Dass. The leader of the illegal faction, Shehu Barau, was also there. He claimed that he is the approved leader of the party and prevented the meeting from moving forward. The REC broke the meeting and invited both Barau and the CPC chairman, Mal. Ibrahim Karamba, to his office. There, Barau continued with his ranting. The REC then demanded that a letter signed by the national chairman of CPC be produced recognizing any of them. The CPC State chairman said there is already such a letter in INEC file which was delivered to INEC over two months ago. It was sent by the party headquarters recognizing him as the State Chairman of the party alongside other thirty-one other exco members. Yet, the REC insisted that Karamba must produce a fresh letter addressed to him (the REC) and signed only by the National Chairman of the Party. Only then would he retrieve the form issued to Dass and issue him a new one.
It was already Monday afternoon. The parties were only then formally informed that next Saturday 7 August has been fixed for the State Assembly by-election at Gamawa and that they should fill the forms and return them to INEC, Bauchi latest 4.00 pm on Wednesday, 3 July 2010, that is within 48 hours.
CPC’s fate was left hanging until it produces the letter.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

CPC was able to tender the fresh letter duly signed by its chairman around 12.00pm on Tuesday. It was taken to the REC. The executives who accompanied the letter were kept waiting uninformed of anything for four hours. The REC did not attend to them. As they waited, they again contacted INEC national headquarters to complain of the delay. Finally, at after 4.00pm, they were asked to receive their nomination form at the INEC Legal Officer’s office. They met Shehu Barau on the way to the legal officer, ostensibly after concluding that the forms will be given to the State Chairman. They collected the forms and started the battle for primaries which much be concluded within 24 hours.

Wednesday 4, August 2010

No party apart from the ANPP was able to meet the 4.00pm deadline. CPC concluded its adhoc primaries ala PDP around 9.30pm and started the process of meeting the requirements of INEC especially getting 10 nominees each from 2/3 of the local government areas in the senatorial zone that spanned over 200kms. At about the same time that night, INEC started issuing warnings on radio to all parties that any party that has not returned its nomination form by that midnight stands disqualified. CPC submitted its form before noon the following morning under the understanding that it was issued the form only late Tuesday.

Thursday 5, August 2010

I visited the INEC office to hear from its officials about what transpired between them and the CPC and check on the antecedent of the REC. He told me that he delayed the issuance of the form two days ago to CPC even after the letter has arrived in order to get a verbal confirmation from the National Chairman of the party that he indeed signed the letter. So he spoke to National Headquarters of INEC, which contacted the National Chairman of CPC who then gave the confirmation.
I asked him if all parties have met his deadline. He said yes. “Aah? Including PDP?” I asked, knowing fully well that it is yet to complete its primaries even as at when I was speaking to him after 4.00pm that Thursday. He answered, “Yes, including PDP.”
I also confirmed from him that he was appointed an INEC Resident Commissioner by Obasanjo and he has served at that capacity in three states – Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa – before coming to Bauchi recently. He was Sardauna’s press secretary in early 1960s; then he became the first editor of the Nigerian Standard in Jos under JD Gomwalk; then the first Chief Information Officer of defunct Gongola State; then a senator for four and half years during Shagari regime. He is well over 70 years. He has seen a lot, achieved a lot and, apparently, learnt a lot during the past 50 years.
At around midnight PDP concluded its adhoc primaries with Adamu Gumba, a former Customs boss, clinching the ticket, over 24 hours after the INEC deadline and over 8 hours after the REC told me that it has also submitted its forms!
Baba Ilya, the ex-senator and now REC in Bauchi, was reported in the dailies last Wednesday saying that his INEC is committed to free and fair election In Bauchi. I believe him. But going from what I have seen so far, I am bound to ask: Free and fair to whom? To PDP or to all parties? The election in Gamawa will be a walkover for the PDP since the rival ANPP is comatose without Buhari and the new active CPC has been technically blocked from participation on a flimsy reason. But why did not the CPC go to court? That is a story for the public another day. But now, it is in the ugent interest of Buhari to know.

Friday 6, August 2010

As I concluded this piece this Friday noon, I was unable to confirm whether PDP has yet senatorial submitted its nomination form or not. Will it be accepted by INEC when it finally does?
I rest my case, my dear reader. May God save Jega’s project from rigging by intrigues. From this little story, there is a speck of light in distant space for the new INEC radar to detect. God bless Nigeria.


1 CPC is the party of Muhammadu Buhari, widely believed to give the PDP in Bauchi a good run for its money in future elections.
2 Musa G. Dass has been a PDP member until his recent recruitment by an illegal faction of the CPC led by Shehu Barau Ningi.
3 To know what happens when a REC visits a governor, please read the expose of former Governor Donald Duke!
4 The by-election was cancelled at the instance of the PDP state government which sensed defeat and rushed to court just before the election to secure a court order restraining INEC from conducting the election.
5 All parties, except the PDP, joined the CPC in its protest.
6 I really wonder why parties will be notified of an election in just less than a week to when it will take place.
7 When pressed on the legitimacy of the cancellation, the local INEC administrative secretary who throughout the Monday meeting made most of the talking on behalf of the REC withdrew from the position that it was INEC’s position to saying it was his own interpretation of the rules. There were difference in opinion at INEC national headquarters over this. A senior management staff, an assistant director in political parties affairs department or so, told the national secretary of the CPC that the party could participate. When that was relayed to the administrative secretary he contacted another director at INEC headquarters who, he claimed, upheld his position that prevents CPC from participating in the election. Nigeria! A personal opinion of an administrative secretary is enough to determine the fate of a party in an election. Old INEC in new INEC!